The Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is in Pakistan for the first time after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has come into power, has decided to extend his visit for a day, an indicator of the welcome progress being made in the latest round of talks.

The two leaders, joined by their desire for peace talks with the Taliban, sit in Murree, in a quest to renew the previously hostile relationship between the two countries.

Karzai, who has been critical of Pakistan’s role in the security situation that threatens Afghanistan, seeks reassurance on the issue of negotiations with the Afghan Taliban. Recognizing the common threat faced by both countries, the PM has assured the President of his support, should the talks take place with the Taliban. A collective approach to deal with the security crisis pervading the region makes much more sense in contrast with the in coherent and isolating policies of the past.

Another significant item on the agenda is the release of theTaliban commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, currently being held at an unknown location in Pakistan.  He was arrested as a result of a joint operation conducted by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in February 2010.

Karzai believes that the release of the former deputy of Mullah Mohammed Omer is instrumental to the success of negotiations with the Afghan Taliban. The latest reports suggest that the government is seriously considering the release of Mullah Baradar and it is only a matter of time before it is formally announced. This displays the federal government’s willingness to facilitate, as much as possible, the negotiation process in Afghanistan.

The talks are taking place at a time when the PM is trying to shape a national consensus and a strategy to hold talks with the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In statements made after the meeting of the Defense Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) held in Islamabad on Thursday, Sharif made it clear that the dialogue with the Taliban would be based on a pre-condition that the extremist group lay down its arms before entering the peace process.

Contrary to that, the Information Minister Pervez Rasheed has said today that if the Taliban disarm themselves as a result of the negotiations, it will not be viewed as an unwelcome development.

The Prime Minster, while faced with the tremendous task of neutralizing the extremist faction, must protect the interests of Pakistan when dealing with the Afghan President, and also, ensure consistency between him and the rest of his cabinet. A united front is crucial to the present and the future of the country.